Death, Maiming, Wolves and the HSUS
It has been a while since I posted and for that I apologize. The primary reason was that I did not want publish a post that was not uplifting and positive, so close to Christmas.
Four weeks ago I helped bury a dear friend and had to put a mare down who broke her leg, in the middle of the field, with no holes around, apparently from running, or being chased. Then, three days later, one of our mares, who had just foaled, was killed by either a mountain lion or bear and a cow was killed on the same night, perhaps by a pack of coyotes or the same lion or bear.
Needless to say, I was not in the best frame of mind to write a post that was fitting the Christmas season.
It is extremely frustrating and infuriating for me to see and experience the loss of livestock on a regular basis, knowing that it could have been prevented.
Thanks to the Humane Society of the United States, not to be confused with your local humane societies, the hands of ranchers, farmers and the agencies responsible for managing wildlife have been tied. In 1990 they worked to get proposition 117 passed, making it illegal to hunt mountain lions, then again in 1996 they worked to get proposition 197 voted down, which would have allowed the hunting of mountain lions to return. In 1998 they successfully saw proposition 4 pass, which made it illegal to use traps, snares and poisons to defend against predators.
Removing the ability to prevent and deter predators makes as much sense as making it illegal to install burglar alarms in homes and businesses.
Making it illegal to shoot a predator (lion or wolf) until after it has maimed or killed livestock is likened to allowing the armed intruder in your home to harm you or your families before you are allowed to shoot them.
As events would unfold, just a week after the loss of our mare and cow, a reporter, Bettina Boxall, @latenvironment on twitter, from the LA Times called to interview me on my thoughts regarding the reintroduction of the wolf to California; ‘A Lone Wolf Heralds The Return of A Mythic Predator.’ I explained to her that it would be catastrophic mistake to reintroduce another predator to the state without the ability to effectively defend, deter and control the additional threat that it brings.
After reading through some of the comments on the article that Ms. Boxall wrote and comments on other related articles, there a couple of points I would like to address.
First, the suggestion to sterilize the wolves does not address the issue. The wolves are not having intercourse with livestock; they are killing and maiming them.
Second, the idea that one rogue male does not present a problem is false. Male coyotes will mate with dogs, male wolves will mate with dogs and coyotes. The result will be a hybrid that shares an appetite for meat, plain and simple.
Third, some have mentioned utilizing watchdogs as a deterrent, which does work in some instances. However, when we are dealing with multiple packs, one will draw the dogs away, while another moves in. Likewise, a lion or bear will wait for the dogs to chase a coyote and then move in. Additionally, when livestock owners are grazing on multiple leases and not on a home place, dogs are not the best option.
Fourth, some have suggested that we simply chase them away when we see them. I am not sure how to explain this, but predators most often make their kills at night and farmers and ranchers need their sleep.
Fifth, it has been mentioned by several that ranchers just cannot accept that it is possible to co-exist with wolves, lions and other predators. Back in the 70’s and 80’s co-existence did occur, but we had tools and options available to control predators and lion’s, bears and coyotes feared humans. With the limitations put in place, thanks to the HSUS and the ESA (Endangered Species Act), the fear of humans has been lost, balance is gone. Additionally, due to environmental regulations, timber harvesting has been halted, forests are overgrown, meadows have disappeared and the feed for deer and elk is now only available on the valley floor, among the livestock.
Sixth, many were saying that the re-introduction of the wolf to California was highly unlikely. On December 28, the male wolf, know as OR-7, crossed the border. Does this qualify as re-introduction? See my response on point two.
Finally, some have also suggested that the government should pay ranchers for their losses to predators. There used to be an indemnification program, however, it far from being a help. For example, the cow that we lost was seven years old. Considering our herd average she had at least eight more years of production. Out of the eight calves she would have had, figure half would have been bulls and half heifers. Assuming that half of her calves would have been replacement quality and half marketed at weaning that puts an estimated value on that cow at roughly $14,000. Through the indemnification program offered by the USDA, I could have received a payment for $50; which does not even cover the fuel cost to drive to the office and file the paperwork, let alone the time.
Having said that, is a payment program the answer? In my opinion no, it is not. I would never suggest a payment plan to cover death, injury, bodily harm, assault or theft resulting from a home invasion either. Give us the opportunity to protect our property and our livestock, not financial platitudes.
As we enter the New Year, I pray that we are able to restore some commonsense and sanity to the regulations confronting ranchers and farmers. I also encourage all of you who may be supporting the HSUS to stop and send your money and resources to your local humane shelter.
God Bless and Happy New Year!